American Names · Opinions

Classic Rock Baby (Sur)names

I listen to a lot of classic rock.  By that, I mean rock music that came out between 1965 and 1977-ish, with a few exceptions.  Considering that that the Oldies (music from the 50s and 60s) enjoyed a massive proportion of my childhood music preferences, I’m baffled that 80s and early 90s rock is now considered “classic!”  Sure, it’s influential…but every time I think about this, I ask myself where the time went.  Maybe it’s because I was born in the early 90s, but I have a hard time processing the idea that Nirvana is “classic rock” now (or will be very soon).  Elvis and Chuck Berry don’t even receive that distinction!

But *this* is a gneiss, classic rock.  Photo Credit: By Huhulenik – Own work, CC BY 3.0,

My 1965-1977 parameters for classic rock are admittedly a bit arbitrary and fuzzy.  I say 1965 for the beginning because that’s when the Beatles released Rubber Soul and the Stones sang “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.”  I decided on the 1977-ish bookend because that’s when the Fleetwood Mac album Rumours came out.  Again, “classic rock” means something very particular to me, and it might mean something different for you!  However – until Van Halen gets the Guardians of the Galaxy treatment, I’m not including related baby names in a “classic rock” posting.

Yes, I have it on vinyl.

Going even just by my standards for classic rock, there are plenty of rocker baby names in circulation!  For this post, I’ve decided to focus on the surnames.  

Bowie – David Bowie died early last year, and I think many of us in the community of name enthusiasts expect a serious boost to the name in the 2016 data.  In 2015, 53 boys and 41 girls were named Bowie.

Cooper – School might not be out for the summer, but this week it was out for the snowstorm.  Alice Cooper lends his adopted name to thousands of boys and hundreds of girls in the U.S.  In 2015, Cooper ranked #77 for boys.

Derringer – This one might be a bit more obscure.  Rick Derringer was responsible for the song “Rock and Roll, Hootchie Koo.”  Before that, he sang “Hang on Sloopy” for the McCoys.  8 boys were named Derringer in 2015.

Harrison – The Beatles have always been my favorite band, so when it comes to famous rock guitarists I’m rather partial to George Harrison (funnily enough, “Here Comes the Sun” popped up on my Pandora as I was typing this).  Looking at the stats, Harrison‘s popularity seems more closely tied to Harrison Ford, since Star Wars saved the name from falling out of the top 1000.  Indeed, Harrison hasn’t ever been out of the top 1000!  That’s the definition of a timeless name.  Current rank: #119.

Henley – Before his solo career, Don Henley was a member of the Eagles.  Henley is a far more popular baby name for girls than it is for boys.  Current rank: #553 (girls), and 104 boys. 

Jagger – A rather jagged name, don’t you think?  The data certainly says so.  Just take a look at the popularity graph on Behind the Name or the numbers on Nancy’s Baby Names.  It also makes me think of “jäger” – the German word for “hunter,” though it’s pronounced more like “yay-grr” than “Jagger.”   Mick Jagger (Rolling Stones) is the probable namesake for the 389 boys and 9 girls named Jagger in 2015.  Current rank: #657 (boys).

Lennon – The SSA birth data suggests that American men have been given the first name Lennon since the early 20th century, but 1981 was the first time Lennon appeared as a girls’ name.  John Lennon died in December of 1980, and in 1981 the Grammy Awards accorded his last record (Double Fantasy) “Album of the Year.”  Lennon remained a rare name for both genders until 2008, when it entered the top 1000 for boys.  In 2012, it entered as a girls’ name.  Interestingly, 2015 saw Lennon become more for girls than boys!  A rapid-riser, Lennon currently ranks #515 for girls and #609 for boys.   

Lynne – Jeff Lynne is the genius behind ELO (Electric Light Orchestra).  Lynne was a top 1000 women’s name from 1931 to 1983, though only 9 girls were named Lynne in 2015.

McCartney – You’re more likely to encounter a female McCartney than male.  The SSA recorded 20 girls and 5 boys named Mccartney (yes, that’s how it’s rendered) in 2015.  I’ve noticed that when it comes to the Beatles and baby names, their surnames usually now veer feminine (see Lennon and Starr).  Harrison is the overwhelmingly masculine exception.

Mercury – 9 girls and 5 boys were named Mercury in 2015.  Whether they’re named after Freddie Mercury or in keeping with astrology is unknown, though other babies were named Aries, Taurus, and Gemini

Nash Graham Nash was a member of the Hollies and subsequently Crosby, Stills, and Nash.  Current rank: #343.

Page Jimmy Page was the guitarist for Led Zeppelin.  17 girls were named Page in 2015.

Rafferty – Gerry Rafferty was a member of Stealer’s Wheel, the band that sang “Stuck in the Middle With You.”  He also had a solo career.  Only 12 American boys were named Rafferty in 2015, though the name is much more popular in England and Wales (current E/W rank: #289). 

Santana Santana was briefly popular as a girls’ name in the 80s and is now a popular boys’ name.  I don’t think Carlos Santana is the namesake for most of them (I hear there’s a Glee character?), but there were definitely more babies named Santana after Woodstock.  Current rank: #867 for boys, though 119 girls also received the name in 2015.

Seger – I admit: I don’t listen to much Bob Seger (“Against the Wind,” anyone?), but I noticed his surname towards the bottom of the 2015 data.  10 boys were named Seger at last count. 

Starr – Ringo’s adopted surname was actually a top 1000 girls’ name before the Beatles were popular.  Starr went out in the 50s and then returned for brief periods in the 70s and 90s.  Only 74 girls were named Starr last year, and considering she’s trending downwards, I don’t think the 20-year cycle will apply this decade. 

Tyler – Steven Tyler is still a member of Aerosmith!  Tyler is still (barely) a top 100 name in the U.S., ranking #87 in 2015. 

What do you think?  Are there any names you’d add to this list?  Do you agree with my classic rock parameters? 

P.S. Curiously, I didn’t find any Claptons in the data.  Eric Clapton definitely influenced baby naming; his 1970 song “Layla” led to Layla‘s first foray into the top 1000 (circa 1972).  To be fair, that wasn’t a solo song; the band name was Derek and the Dominos.

P.P.S. I didn’t notice any Springsteens either. 

2 thoughts on “Classic Rock Baby (Sur)names

  1. I think Classic Rock came BEFORE 1980! You should do a post on rock song names 🙂 I would add — or wonder about (Jim) Morrison, (Marc) Bolan and (Eric) Burdon. Although it would be pretty weird to name a kid Burdon, lol!

    Liked by 1 person

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